Bikes and their riders in London

Cyclist in London (PA)
Cyclist in London (PA)

Unfortunately I had a run in with a wild eyed loon on a bike today.

Being neither a Clarksonesque petrol head nor the owner of a driving licence, I love long urban walks in London and loyally use the Underground. I adore the banter of travelling in town at all hours. There are strange and fabulously eccentric fellows on late night tubes.

But my favourite mode of transport is by foot. Until that this, I come across cyclists – and if there is a more bilious group in London, I have yet to find them.

Of course I mourn for those killed on the roads. But, as a pedestrian, I find them impossible to like as tribe.

Grouped in a nylon swathe of aggression they rant and rave at any interference with their personal bubble. Coiled like cobras they have a twice daily battle with the world. Hacking oblique courses and breaking every Highway Code these athletes bustle to work.

Try crossing the multi traffic lighted roads by Blackfriars Bridge. With only the morning wind in my hair, the lights were red and a tube full of people was off to work. Suddenly out of nowhere arrived a character who thought he was Sir.Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins clattered in to one burly chap, sent one delightful blonde sprawling, and had the temerity to snick my new loafers. Us beat upon commuters were shocked.

He then turned to us, shouted something in a breathless sibilant voice and spat in our general direction (a hanging offence). Swigging liberally at his energy drink, he rode off muttering and shaking his helmeted head.

“Bloody cyclists” we agreed as one as we continued our treacherous crossing.

Wiggins sped off and nearly crashed into an oncoming car, to which he duly flipped the bird. Pleasantries were shared and a lot of French was spoken. He drove away down Farringdon Road to abuse and horns, still muttering and shaking his helmeted head.

If they stuck to to the roads, it would be bad enough. But they are even starting to ruin that great British institution – the pub. They block entrances with their machines and worst of all, any last semblance of sartorial elegance has gone.

They invariably stink of day old sweat, their helmets and gloves clutter tables and their watches are vile digital creations. They wear lycra which stretches over every crevice and unseemly bump and will even wear a hat (helmet) indoors.

It need not be so. Cyclists are a brilliant adornment to Amsterdam. But London is becoming a frequently fraught place for pedestrians.

The problem lies not with the vehicles but with the jockeys on board. And there is no doubt their behaviour is getting worse. Back to back victories in the Tour de France seem to have give the biking fraternity further confidence to shout, gods to worship and Team Sky kits to wear. Perhaps they are living out their dreams of glory, imagining that surrounding cars are the TV cars and work is the finishing line.

Venting my spleen on this eco-friendly group does make me look a fool. But the attitude of cyclists, and the equally aggressive car drivers, is creating a completely unnecessary war of the roads.

Perhaps cyclists should take a leaf out of Amsterdam’s book – less coffee, more coffee shops.

I remain convinced that cyclists are too aggressive – and I say this even though many close friends ride twice a day. I am truly glad not to have seen them on two wheels or had a drink with them clad in lycra. In a clean shirt and resplendent blazer, they are kind, witty, and thoroughly nice chaps.


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